Artist Extraordinaire – Jon Todd

Artist Extraordinaire – Jon Todd

It’s not every day you get to meet one of your creative role models… let alone chill at their studio and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what’s to come in the art world.

Being the lucky bastard I am, the awesome Jon Todd allowed me just that.

While in Toronto, after the super hyped MMVA’s and right before jetting back to the 514, Elle, Matthew and I headed over to the T dots art district to step inside the world of one of my all-time favorite artists.

Located in an old mechanics commercial space in the middle of an alley, Todd’s studio is bright, minimalistic, and packed with personality.  Beautiful antique chairs surround a rustic trunk topped with Hi Fructose mags, old plastic milk carts cradle a family of spray paint cans and deer antlers adorn the top of the fireplace.


Even cooler still is the original artwork that grace the walls throughout the space, and the secluded room just off the open kitchen where all the artistic mastery goes down.

Elle and I chillin’ with the Snake Pit Goddess Lady… I originally fell in love with this painting when it was being displayed at Yves Laroche (in the Old Port at the time).

So many amazing things going on in this piece!

What I love most about Todd’s work is not only the obvious aesthetic beauty of intricate detailing and raw decimation, but the symbolism behind the images he conveys.  Everything he paints is reminiscent of his past and characteristic both of the people around him as well as the feelings they evoke.

Using references and inspiration from traditional Japanese, Byzantine, Street, North European, Folk and Mexican art, Jon’s paintings look straight out of a mythological fairytale.  Using color palettes that keep the tone of his work from venturing too far goth, Todd plays with contrasts and happy brights.  Deconstruction holds valuable meaning as well.  Jon has admitted everything from throwing canvases down flights of stairs, belt sanding them for a raw finish, and even chemically altering them via household cleaners to achieve his end result of perfection!

How awesome is that?

A new wave of talented, young, Canadian graffiti and street inspired contemporary/pop surrealist artists are emerging and taking the International scene by storm (and with good reason).  Montreal’s own Omen and Jonathan Bergeron, Todd himself, and Turf One (a personal buddy of Jon’s) only appear to be growing in strength, technique and popularity.

It’s only a matter of time before world domination occurs (you heard it here first).

One of the more prominent manners Jon creates a storyline for the characters he creates, is by depicting symbolism through tattoos.  Taking a Russian mob approach, every permanent inked addition represents a form of action or history to the wearer.

When I asked if his visual metaphors were historically or personally based, he let me in on diffusing the mysteries that make his work so mesmerizing…insight to the meaning behind the art itself…

The key (repeat) contenders?

Mexican Skulls – Reminiscent of his father, celebration, life and death.

The Goddesses – Depicted as everything from ghost geisha’s to bombshells, the ladies in his work are symbolic of his real-life feminine muses.

Serpents – Demons and the capacity for evil.

Wrestlers – A fascination he has held his whole life (also reminiscent of his childhood and relationship with his father).

Aside from being an artist himself, Jon himself is an avid art collector.  You know how some girls have ridiculous shoe collections (GUILTY)?  Well Jon has art.  Be it trading his work for those of his colleagues or purchasing them in full, snapping up art is his tried, tested and true alternative to real estate!

Todd’s philosophy on art that will stand the test of time can be narrowed down to three particulars: History, Personality and Dialogue.  If a work of art can give you all three, you have found relevance capable of transcending time.

As far as materials go, Jon is a big fan of mixed media.  Ever-experimenting with everything from layering (via specialty print paper and wallpapers), graffiti, screen printing, paints (both acrylic and oil), markers (Sharpies) and pencils, to collage techniques for a multi-faceted/dimensional result.

Personally, I love art that keeps your eyes moving, and your mind wondering.

Creating an abundance of visual stimulation kicks minimalisms ass in my books any day of the week!

Enjoy some of the new work Jon is currently finishing off (which sadly will not be on display in Montreal just yet)…

Aren’t they just divine?

Fun Fact

I credit myself with popping Jon’s Bilboquet (some of the 514’s best homemade ice cream) cherry during his visit to Montreal (now THAT is an accomplishment friends)!  Turns out in everyday life he is a big Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia kinda guy!

Fun Fact

Jon Todd is an avid basketball player!

Can you believe that in high school he was a jock that played for his schools team “The Saints”?

Fun Fact

Jon is a trooper and rode the mechanical bull at Chez Serge!


Okay, now this was supposed to be the two of us sporting our best cracked out/drunk faces… which I’m not quite convinced we successfully achieved (despite still coming off messed)… hmmmmm….

In any case, Jon’s next show will be in Toronto at Smash Gallery (2880 Dundas Street West Toronto Ontario) from the 9th till the 16th of October 2010!

I will be there!!!

The exhibit is called Superhero and will showcase the life and times of Todd’s fictional wrestler character (sounds too cool for school right?).

In the meantime, be sure to show some love and check out his myspace, follow his musings on twitter and inspirations/updates via blog!



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